Sophie’s Coming Home [Client Highlight]

Client: Hill Valley

Original Post: Sophie’s Coming Home [Client Highlight]


We are excited to share with you our newest project; Sophie’s Coming Home.

For anyone who has ever had to tackle the challenge of relocating their family, you know how difficult it can be to get your pet from point A to point B.

Enter our newest client, Starwood Animal Transport.

Starwood safely transports your animal, whether it is a cat, dog, pig, chicken, snake etc. Pretty much anything you can think of, they will ship it. Everything is taken care of from paperwork, logistics, check in, pick up to delivery. Starwood treats your pets like they family they are. Did we mention they are a global company? Yes, they will even ship your pet internationally.

Needless to say, we were excited to collaborate with Starwood.

Before (or after!) you check out the final spot, take a look at how we arrived at the finished product.

Because Starwood makes your pets their priority we centered the commercial around a family unit who had just experienced a move of their own.

The basic concept was simple, a young girl anxiously awaits the arrival of Sophie to the family’s new home. But who is Sophie? It is not until the end of the spot that we realize Sophie is actually the family dog. And who else should you call on to take care of this family member? You guessed it, Starwood.


In brainstorming for the script, we focused on two key points. First, the family had just moved in. Second (and most important), we couldn’t spoil the fact that Sophie was a dog.

Throughout the spot, the young girl is getting things ready for her “friend” to arrive. We made sure these items were ambiguous enough that they could be for a person or an animal (toys, hair brush, mother baking cookies). The reveal had to be timed and executed just right. The final pick-up shots of these “clues” would reveal to the viewer that it is not a human companion at the door.

Although some of the “clues” did not make the final cut, we kept pretty close to the script.


Abigail and Karen were booked through Albany Talent, Inc in upstate New York. As for the father, we decided to use a friend who looked the part. We dressed him up and put him to work!


Finding the perfect location can be a difficult task. Should we use a home that is vacant? Should we rent a house? Can we find the perfect house with someone we know? Logistically finding a house for sale and unoccupied was not going to happen. Plan B worked perfectly – find a current homeowner who would let us invade their space for a couple of days (thank you guys!)

For the location, we needed a charming front entry since this would be where the climax of the commercial took place. Luckily, we were able to find one location to shoot both interiors and exteriors. We had a decent amount of setups to get done in one day, so not having to move to a second location was a huge time saver.


For Sophie’s Coming Home we took our first plunge into the world of RED camera production. We have to say, it is fantastic. We are pleased with how skillfully this camera handles different lighting conditions.  Red recommends starting at an ISO of 800. It takes time and patience to light for proper exposure when shooting indoors. In the long run, it is worth it.

Our Matthews flags helped diffuse the mixed lighting spilling in from multiple sources. Eventually we had complete control over the light, allowing us to bring our envisioned aesthetic to life. During pre-production we decided to play with using a Hazer to create a cinematic look. It was a touchy machine to work with but it helped soften the harsh light and accentuated light beams shining through the windows.

We had a great time during our two days of production. Check out some BTS photos!


No matter how prepared you are in pre-production or how efficient you are during production, post-production comes with new challenges. What was our biggest one? Cutting down the final spot to 1:30. Our first draft ran 3 minutes!

Testing out the Sennheiser MKH416 was another first for us. It produces a crisp and clean sound making our post EQ job painless. It is definitely on our to purchaselist.

Shooting LOG allowed us to push our levels in post to get the final color we were looking for.

Here are some before & after’s of our coloring process.


We are jazzed to finally introduce our commercial for Starwood Animal Transport. Make sure you check out their website for more information on transporting your beloved companions. Do you have a idea for a commercial at your company? Send us an email at We can not wait to hear what projects you’re working on.

From Chris, Christian, and Liz at Hill Valley, Enjoy!


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